Entering Saturday's dual meet at Ohio State, the No. 14 Penn State women's gymnastics team was determined to make up for its prior struggles on the road.
But after sophomore Whitney Bencsko hyperextended her left knee landing off the uneven bars -- the first event of the meet -- things went downhill.
The Nittany Lions' worst uneven bars score of the season followed the injury, as Penn State lost to the Buckeyes, 194.950-193.850. The 193.850 was the Lions' worst overall score of the season and was certainly not the result Penn State anticipated.
"I don't think the meet or the score is indicative of what we're capable of," Penn State coach Steve Shephard said. "I think everyone on the team realizes that it was an off night, and we need to put it behind us and move forward in a positive direction."
After Bencsko suffered the injury and was carried into the training room, senior Casey Rohrbaugh said the team was shaken up. Senior Alexandra Brockway, an All-American on the bars, fell and scored a season-low 9.175. Freshman Sharaya Musser also posted a season-low. Add Bencsko's low score after the fall, and Penn State finished the event with a 48.075, its worst bars score since last Jan. 17.
"Everybody was in shock, and we were kind of in denial," senior co-captain Rosie Smith said of Bencsko's injury affecting the team. "We didn't believe what just happened. When something like that happens in the middle of the meet, it just hits you."
Though the Lions bounced back on the vault with a 49.275, they struggled on their remaining two events, with a 48.625 in the floor exercise and a 47.875 on the balance beam.
There were some positives in the meet, though. Senior Brandi Personett finished with a 39.400 in the all-around and Musser with a 39.150 in just her second time performing all four events in a single meet.
Smith, who was thrust into the floor exercise lineup in Bencsko's absence, said throughout the meet the gymnasts had no idea what was wrong with their teammate, making it difficult to concentrate as well as they usually do. Bencsko's status remains uncertain at this time.
"It was really chaotic, and everybody's trying to pull together as a team and finish the meet strongly, but it was really hard after something like that," she said. "Whitney's a key component on our team, great competitor, always puts up four great routines, and then all of a sudden, we didn't have it anymore."
Despite Saturday's setback, however, Shephard said the team needs to move on and become mentally tougher, with or without its All-America sophomore.
"We have a realistic goal still of winning a Big Ten championship, and qualifying for the national championship," the coach said. "So, it doesn't change anything. It's a huge disappointment, and it's an emotional blow to the team, but in terms of our goals, it doesn't change our goals."